UK aerospace sector to benefit from £400 million funding to go green

Green Flight aerospace

The government has announced grants totalling £200 million, delivered through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI)* programme, will be matched by industry to create the total investment of £400 million in new research and technology, enabling ambitious projects to lift off and support the sector’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

New projects set to receive funding will include developing high performance engines, new wing designs, ultra-lightweight materials, energy-efficient electric components, and other brand new concepts to enhance innovation within the sector. A project led by Didcot-based Williams Advanced Engineering in Oxford, for example, will develop ultra-lightweight seat structures that will reduce an aircraft’s fuel consumption.

The successful projects that will receive a share of the government’s £200 million grant funding through the ATI programme, and match it with their own investment, include:

  • wings: the UK is the home of Airbus wing design and manufacturing. Airbus-led projects at Broughton in Wales and Filton near Bristol will drive forward more efficient wing assembly, systems installation, digital design processes and a range of innovative wing concepts including folding wing tips.
  • engines: Rolls-Royce-led projects will support the development of the UltraFan engine technology, which will make a step change in the efficiency and environmental performance of aircraft
  • power systems: the AEPEC project led by Safran Electrical & Power UK (Pitstone) will research how new electrical power systems can lead to more efficient energy usage
  • cabin systems: an Oxford-based project led by Williams Advanced Engineering will develop ultra-lightweight seat structures for air travel, reducing the weight of aircraft. The AIRTEK project is focused on developing lightweight seat structures for the civilian aerospace sector. Williams, in a collaboration with JPA Design and SWS Certification, is developing new lightweight aircraft seats in order to reduce the weight of aircraft, which in turn will lead to airlines saving fuel and CO2.

Stu Olden, Senior Commercial Manager for Defence, Aerospace & Emerging Markets at Williams Advanced Engineering, said: “A key benefit for us of the ATI support has been to enable accelerated development of the 3 companies involved in the consortium.

“Additionally, by developing UK technologies and innovation, the ATIprogramme is enabling UK-based product development and, hopefully, future jobs. For Williams Advanced Engineering it has allowed us to participate in the aerospace sector as a non-traditional supplier.”

Business Secretary Alok Sharma also announced the FlyZero initiative to kickstart exploration into zero-carbon emission commercial aircraft.

The FlyZero study will receive government funding and bring together around 100 experts to tackle issues involved in designing and building a commercially successful zero-emission aircraft. The study will create a strong basis for further research and development into a wide of technologies necessary for future flight, with the aim of securing future manufacturing in the UK.

This follows the launch of the Jet Zero Council, which brings industry and government together to make net zero emissions possible for future flights. The FlyZero study will feed into the work of the Council in defining and delivering this ambition.

Gary Elliott, Chief Executive of the Aerospace Technology Institute, said: “FlyZero will engage a team of highly-skilled engineers and technologists from across the UK to look into how to design and build a zero emission commercial aircraft, with the solid aim of securing future manufacturing in the UK.”

*The Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) programme is a joint government and industry commitment to invest £3.9 billion in research to 2026. In addition to the ATIProgramme and FlyZero, the Institute also supports the supply chain through NATEP and aerospace start-ups through the ATI Boeing Accelerator.